By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

Robert Chambers, research associate at Institute of Development Studies, opened the conference by saying it was an opportunity for insights, ideas and for maximising learning.

The three stages of participatory methodologies come in to play when talking about CLTS, said Robert. The first stage is excitement and a huge upsurge in enthusiasm that the method is happening and that it works.

Then realism, the second stage, kicks in, when initial excitement is tempered by the realisation that all is not quite as wonderful as it initially seemed. Research and deliberation about second and third generation problems becomes very important at this stage. And it is when people who are very committed to the methodology start to issue stark warnings, he said. But it is the time for great learning from diversities of practice which enables proponents to see what does and what does not work. Robert stressed that this stage is no time to be defensive but instead to maximise learning.

The third final stage is evolution – when there is a merging with other methodologies. “It’s not either/ or,” said Robert: “In Zambia, for instance, hand-washing has always been very important. It is about complementarities and we hope ideas about this in terms of CLTS come out of this conference.”

Robert summed up the importance of this conference: “We are at a tipping point in sanitation, and for CLTS. Will we look back at this moment in time and say it was when the penny dropped and good practice spreads? Or will we look back and say we missed the boat? Let’s try hard so that in three years time we don’t look back and say ‘if only’. Let’s use the opportunities that we have got.”

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